Honey, Bees and Business

Image of a bee hovering over flowers

Do you know that we have our own native honey bee here in Ireland? The Native Irish Honey Bee is often called the ‘Black Bee’ as it is generally dark in colour – although it can vary on occasion. It is a strain of the Dark European Honey Bee (Apis mellifera mellifera) indigenous to Ireland, Britain, Scandinavia, parts of northern and central mainland Europe.

The Native Irish Honey Bee Society, Apis mellifera mellifera has been recently established to promote its conservation throughout the island of Ireland. The society also acts in an advisory capacity to groups and individuals who wish to promote the native honey bee. It is an All-Ireland organisation with representatives from both North and South. Donegal has already three associations situated in Letterkenny, Foyle and Inishowen and with the newly formed South Donegal beekeepers the whole county will be covered for those wishing to learn the craft of beekeeping.

Here, a local beekeeping association has created “a hive of activity” in the south of the county with its aim to help replenish the stock of bees. It also hopes to "showcase some of the finest honey produced anywhere in Ireland", stated one member. Wild bee numbers have plummeted over recent decades in Donegal and reached a critical level about a decade ago, largely due to the ‘Verona mite’. In 2011 30 boxes of bees were transported up from the south east to Donegal and beekeepers in the county hope that numbers can once again become self sufficient.

It looks as if the enthusiasm of the group is paying off. A group of enterprising businessmen and beekeepers in Donegal recently launched an Irish equivalent to Manuka Honey under the Active Irish Honey brand. The idea for Active Irish Honey came about when businessman Conor Daly began beekeeping recreationally. When his first crop was harvested, he found that people were approaching him for help with a variety of ailments from pollen allergies to sore throats. Daly’s partners in the venture are businessman and engineer Karl Diver, entrepreneur and food expert Austin Duignan and professional beekeeper German-born Oliver Luttringhaus, whose North West Honey apiary is based in Donegal.

The company’s objective is a simple yet effective one, creating “a new and sustainable honey production and sales model that is scalable, commercially viable and offers quality local employment opportunities”. The fledgling business is based in the CoLab incubation centre at Letterkenny Institute of Technology and has received €10,000 in start-up funding from the Donegal Enterprise Board. The brand was launched at a Donegal Food Festival.


For further information on the various Donegal bee associations please see: